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Bring back traffic enforcement now, please!

Original post made by Dave Hoffman, Crescent Park, on Jul 17, 2017

We desperately need a team of officers around to enforce the traffic laws in Palo Alto.

The latest insanity has been caused by the ongoing water main upgrade work on Hamilton Avenue between Webster and Alma. This project has resulted in a series of steel plates being placed on the street in the westbound lane (heading in the direction of Alma) to cover the work in progress. Because drivers apparently don't want to drive over the bumpy plates on that side of the road (even drivers in those gigantic SUVs, ludicrously enough), many have decided simply to cross the double-yellow line and drive on the wrong side of the road through downtown. Just this morning in a ten minute stretch while walking my dog around 6:40 am, I watched three successive cars do this--and it's a daily occurrence.

Setting aside the breathtaking--yet entirely typical--selfishness it takes to decide the suspension on one's car is worth risking a head-on collision, I have to ask: what will it take to get our city council and police department to pony up for a traffic enforcement unit again? Will a cyclist or pedestrian have to die? Or do we have to wait for a series of head-on collisions in downtown?

I'm so tired of watching lazy, selfish drivers running lights and stop signs and ignoring rules of the road--not to mention hearing the screech of tires and crunch of collisions--all over our neighborhoods here, and it's past time for our elected officials to start doing something about it!

Comments (40)

4 people like this
Posted by True!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2017 at 10:04 am

[Post removed due to inaccurate information.]

Moderator's Note: See Web Link for background on funding for traffic enforcement officers.


35 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 17, 2017 at 10:31 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

1: Palo Alto definitely needs more traffic officers, and police officers. Safety and security should be the number 1 priority of the city.

2: You are overreacting about Hamilton. If there is no oncoming traffic, then there is no risk, so drive around the metal plates, who cares.


44 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 17, 2017 at 10:47 am

A much bigger problem is rampant speeding on Middlefield, Embarcadero, and Alma Street. I would like to see the city declare double fines for reckless driving in residential areas, especially streets near public schools like Embarcadero and Middlefield. Use the money to hire more traffic police.


26 people like this
Posted by Zoo Makes It Worse
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 17, 2017 at 11:26 am

Now that the city in its infinite wisdom has decided to eliminate 85+ parking spaces for the new Children's Zoo near the Community Center and the school at Middlefield & Embarcadero, expect traffic at an already problematic intersection to get even worse as frustrated parents keep circling trying to drop off / pickup their kids.

Throw in the messes the city has made at both ends of Middlefield and you've got a recipe for more cut-through traffic, gridlock and road rage.


15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2017 at 11:34 am

I can't speak about the metal plates mentioned above but with all the construction all over town, there are many times that delivery trucks for cement and other equipment are blocking one side of the road and all traffic including pedestrians have to use the "wrong" side just to pass. At times some of these have flaggers helping traffic, but quite often there is nothing to help traffic and we are on our own.

I think when construction, either a private house doing remodel work or when a big development or a commercial business is blocking the road for more than a few minutes, something should be done about the traffic rerouting that needs to take place. On one day recently on Loma Verde, there was a delivery truck blocking one side of the street for hours and it was difficult for all traffic going both directions trying to pass.


7 people like this
Posted by Dave Hoffman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 17, 2017 at 11:35 am

To John Alderman:

I didn't say there was "no traffic", you assumed that. There are other cars on the road when this is happening, some driving on the right side of the double-yellow line, some not, and it's ridiculously dangerous. When did it become such a burden for our entitled Palo Alto drivers to avoid driving over some steel plates in the road?




35 people like this
Posted by Slow down
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 17, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Everyone is driving TOO FAST on our residential streets! We need more speed bumps, who's with me? Also why don't bikes stop at stop signs, I will never understand


43 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 17, 2017 at 12:19 pm

@Slow down - as a regular pedestrian in Palo Alto's residential neighborhoods, I can tell you that cars that speed and don't stop at stop signs are far more common and far more dangerous than anything that bicycles are doing.


12 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 17, 2017 at 1:32 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Dave Hoffman - I didn't say you said there was no traffic, you assumed that. Ridiculously dangerous, really? Passing on around a blind curve on a two lane road is dangerous. Driving around plates on a flat, straight street is only dangerous if you don't check for oncoming traffic.


15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2017 at 2:22 pm

Do my fellow Palo Alto wake up every morning, shaking in fear of potential dangers and indignant at every slight impropriety they spot, terrified for the safety of their dogs and themselves as they step out into the brutal, harsh and foreboding landscape of the township of Palo Alto?


26 people like this
Posted by Slow down
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 17, 2017 at 2:24 pm

A cyclist nearly ran over my dog last week, they never stop at stop signs


11 people like this
Posted by Dave Hoffman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 17, 2017 at 2:31 pm

@Resident: I can't--and don't pretend to--speak for all of your "fellow Palo Alt[ans]", but I cycle, run, and walk through Palo Alto at least twice a day, seven days a week, and I've had dozens of close calls with cars and bicyclists, even when wearing reflective gear and flashing lights, crossing in cross-walks, and obeying the rules of the road. And I hear and witness at least an accident a month in my neighborhood. That seems like a pretty clear sign that people aren't obeying traffic laws around here.


51 people like this
Posted by Recumbent Bike Visibility
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2017 at 3:25 pm

Speaking of close calls and near misses, a few hours ago I saw a recumbent bicyclist SCREAMING at the top of his lungs at a motorist who was obviously exiting the Midtown Walgreen's lot because the diver didn't see him illegally zooming down the sidewalk INTO the path of the exiting vehicle that was clearly signaling its turn.

I guess it never dawned on him that a) drivers would be looking for oncoming traffic in the other direction, b) what a turn signa; meant, c) that he was below the sight line of all but the tiniest cars or d) to get a tall flag.


23 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 17, 2017 at 3:47 pm

I agree completely that traffic enforcement should be a priority where safety is at stake.

At least twice a day, I walk across the University | High Street intersection downtown. I always wait for the walk sign, and never cross illegally.

Almost every day, I see cars running through red lights, cars turning right on red without looking, cars blocking the intersection, cars inching up on pedestrians in the crosswalk, etc.

It is a miracle that no pedestrians have been critically injured or killed. I, myself, have had countless near misses.


11 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 17, 2017 at 3:49 pm

"When did it become such a burden for our entitled Palo Alto drivers to avoid driving over some steel plates in the road?"

They're pampering the delicate suspensions of their off-road SUVs.


30 people like this
Posted by Where, oh, Where?
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2017 at 4:00 pm

What happened to the extra officers PAPD claimed to have hired a few years ago?

Every time anyone asks Mr Roadshow, in the Metc, about Palo Alto scofflaws, the PAPD official word is that they " have it under control", or that they staked out the residential areas and " found no evidence of stop sign running on residential streets.

We all know THAT is not true!


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2017 at 4:35 pm

[Portion removed.]
Are Palo Altans so soft and fragile that they don't realize we're in the safest place in the world? Such a bubble mentality. Its the squeaky wheels like the original poster that give the city government excuses to raise taxes on us so they can build more "traffic calming" barriers.
Don't we have bigger concerns that we should be focusing on???

Again, my fellow Palo Altans. Love y'all.


15 people like this
Posted by Recumbent Bike Visibility
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2017 at 4:52 pm

@Resident, I fear the city would continue with its ridiculous "traffic calming" barriers and traffic diets regardless of what we say because refuse to acknowledge legitimate complaints.

The key issue / "bigger concern" is the city's lack of accountability.


10 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 17, 2017 at 4:59 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Resident - If you think Palo Alto is one of the safest places in the world, then you are probably victim to a bubble mentality. Palo Alto isn't in the top 75% of safest cities in the US, and the US is one of the more dangerous countries. You probably won't get killed (unless you are a cyclist) here, but your chances of being a victim of property crime are sadly high.


16 people like this
Posted by Dave Hoffman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 17, 2017 at 5:09 pm

@Resident: please consider the possibility that what may be an "inane, minor annoyance" or a "phantom safety issue" for you might be a more significant problem for others.

I've been clipped (actual physical contact with rear view mirrors) by cars more than once when riding safely and legally in a marked bike lane--during daylight hours, even, and have friends who have been hit, suffering serious injuries. Not a week goes by without a close call, whether with a driver drifting into the bike lane while checking their phone or rolling through a stop sign into a cross-walk while I'm in the middle of it. Being a pedestrian in Palo Alto shouldn't require risking one's life on a regular basis.

I'm not asking the city to build additional 'traffic calming barriers', just for the existing rules of the road to be routinely enforced.


9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2017 at 7:05 pm

I have lived in East Los Angeles and Israel, for Chrissake. And you're saying I have a bubble mentality. Give me a break, john_alderman. Real life experience trumps your statistics and percentages.

I just went on a long walk all over Palo Alto and it was quite a nice stroll. No "close calls" whatsoever. Give me a break!


13 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 17, 2017 at 7:16 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@ Resident - your argument is that anecdote trumps facts? ok.. Because you lived someplace worse doesn't change the truth about Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2017 at 7:22 pm

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 17, 2017 at 7:47 pm

This morning in downtown PA a woman almost smashed into my car as she stopped in the very last fraction of a second from a side street in downtown where she was supposed to stop at her stop sign (but I had right of way and no stop sign), and a dude drove the wrong way in the one-way Wells Fargo parking lot. It's narrow and cannot accommodate entitled jerks who refuse to acknowkedge the obvious angled parking slots in the lot and one-way entrance on one side and exit at the other. Amazing.


11 people like this
Posted by A Possible Solution
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 17, 2017 at 11:22 pm

Why not utilize the PAPD reserve officers for traffic enforcement? It's a volunteer position and about the only time I see them is during Stanford football games directing traffic. Being legally-sworn officers, they can conduct many duties that a regular officer can and at no additional fiscal cost to the city or its residents.


12 people like this
Posted by Dave Hoffman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 18, 2017 at 6:50 am

This thread illustrates a couple significant problems with our community: an inability to have a civil discussion about anything (exhibit A? @Resident's contributions) and a sense of entitlement great enough that some residents believe it's up to them to decide when they have to obey traffic laws and when they don't.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the citizens of Palo Alto, possibly the safest community in the world.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 18, 2017 at 8:26 am

Dave, forgive me for speaking my mind and being honest & straightforward. How am I not being civil? I expressed love for the people of Palo Alto, in spite of the sanctimony and hypersensitivity I see around here.
You seem to generalize what Palo Altans are like based on anonymous posters and some wayward drivers; and you express only condescension.

Back to the original argument: Palo Alto actually has a high level of courtesy (compared to other places) because of all the good, properly behaved citizens like you, Dave. I have witnessed this.
Begging for "more enforcement" will only result in a lot of people losing money over pointless tickets. Is that what you want? You believe in punitive measures to solve our problems because inexplicably, you do not feel safe in Palo Alto?

I'd suggest driving defensively and always watching your back, instead of asking for people to lose money over silly traffic tickets. Please consider cause & effect.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 18, 2017 at 8:36 am

There's a couple Federal laws that nobody here would admit to wanting enforced.


12 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 18, 2017 at 11:11 am

Resident with a capital R from Midtown --

I really don't get your point. Are you arguing that just because Palo Alto is a relatively safe town, drivers should be allowed to drive recklessly?

Palo Alto is probably the safest place I have ever made my home. Still, in my time here, we have seen a serial rapist, drive-by shooting, gang murder of a "civilian", armed robbery, etc.

Are you suggesting we shouldn't collar these criminals because such acts are relatively rare here?

Some of the posters here, including me, are saying that there are some dangerous traffic violations and we want the city to protect our safety.

No one is talking about setting speed traps all over town. There is nothing "silly" about issuing citations for dangerous behavior. Reckless drivers deserve a penalty for their actions.

Besides, the revenue generated by such enforcement would surely pay for the costs of the program.


16 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 18, 2017 at 12:03 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Palo Alto is not nearly as violent as Chicago, but that doesn't make it a safe place. it used to be, but the obsession with "vibrancy" has tried into a relatively unsafe place for towns in its size range. Traffic is really bad and unruly. Home burglaries are quite common, and downtown isn't safe at night.

I don't spend that much time here anymore, but it's clear even from my brief visits that the perpetual construction phase contributes mightily to the traffic problems. Since Palo Alto has become an office park, about triple its population is present most days, moving along a very insufficient infrastructure designed for a small town. This a recipe for permanent traffic gridlocked and traffic mayhem, which always happen when irresponsible urbanization meets insufficient infrastructure.


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 18, 2017 at 12:36 pm

I believe that:

1. Traffic enforcement here is just fine. I like the relatively lax police presence in Palo Alto and I don't want it to change. If the urbanization that Mauricio mentions is inevitable, then this town is rapidly losing its character.

2. Generating revenue should never be seen as a justification for issuing tickets -- this is such a slippery slope. In LA and SF the tickets are completey out of control and the city governments begin to lean on ticket revenue, hire more maids and more cops and "enforcement" rapidly becomes a predatory and corrupt revenue-generating machine.

Be careful what you wish for!


10 people like this
Posted by Dave Hoffman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 18, 2017 at 1:22 pm

@Resident: I'm happy to see any resident speak their mind, but I'd greatly prefer them to avoid the dismissive characterizations, belittling comments, and snark you seem to rely on pretty heavily.

By all means feel free to disagree with anyone you like, but recognize the simple fact that you don't see an issue the same way as someone else doesn't necessarily render that issue "inane" or a "phantom safety issue"--instead, perhaps you could consider the possibility that your experiences in Palo Alto aren't representative of the broader community's experience?

And personally, I'm okay with people losing money over "pointless tickets" if it makes drivers think twice about rolling through stop signs, running red lights, driving in bike lanes, text messaging, and generally behaving carelessly on our roads.


6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 18, 2017 at 5:23 pm

" Not a week goes by without a close call, whether with a driver drifting into the bike lane while checking their phone or rolling through a stop sign into a cross-walk while I'm in the middle of it."

Riding wheels drops one's IQ 50% or 50 points, whichever is greater. Never presume your right of way against a driver and auto. To coin a phrase, you may be right, plain dead right. I trust no driver or rider at any time. That simple rule has saved me many scrambles and adrenaline rushes.


4 people like this
Posted by Dave Hoffman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 19, 2017 at 7:47 am

@Curmudgeon: Just so you know, after more than twenty years of cycling, I ride defensively, and don't ever assume a driver is either (1) paying attention or (2) aware that I'm on the road and that I am clearly visible to them, whether it's day or night. I also wear a helmet, brightly colored riding gear, and the required lights, yet I still routinely have close calls. I know enough not to assume any driver will yield the right of way to me, whether they are required to or not. It is not, however, unreasonable to expect a driver will allow a cyclist to finish crossing the street when in a crosswalk already, correct?

Also, cyclists say the same thing about drivers, just so you know. . .


15 people like this
Posted by sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 19, 2017 at 8:59 am

I have seen more than once:
1. Cars driving the wrong direction of Homer
2. Bicyclists, cars, AND pedestrians not stopping before crossing into an intersection
3. Cars that drive in the right lane on Homer, then at the last minute decide to enter the Whole Foods parking lot--directly across traffic in the left lane without even signaling
4. Pedestrians so engrossed in their cell phones that they step off the curb and proceed to cross the street when the intersection is already occupied by a car. They never stop or even look for traffic and are downtown.

This is just a sample.If you the driver, hit the pedestrian in 5 they will blame you (and the officer who arrives may too.


12 people like this
Posted by Bambi
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 20, 2017 at 10:16 am

The speeds and red light running has become serious- early mornings on ALMA are as fats as 100 mph
Let us not wait until tragedy happens - we do need more traffic police and we all need to SLOW DOWN and watch out for one another

WAZE has created cut throughs and high speeds as well


12 people like this
Posted by then there's
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 20, 2017 at 1:42 pm

Ride share drivers that feel entitled to stop anytime and anywhere to do their business.


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 20, 2017 at 1:55 pm

Ah, what about traffic cameras at the lights? I already hear screaming...


8 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 20, 2017 at 4:44 pm

"...after more than twenty years of cycling, I ride defensively, and...etc, etc., ..."

Good for you. Too bad you are an extreme minority. You are correct about drivers. See below.


"It is not, however, unreasonable to expect a driver will allow a cyclist to finish crossing the street when in a crosswalk already, correct?"

That presumption is neither unreasonable, nor realistic, nor safe. Do not "assume any driver will yield the right of way ... , whether they are required to or not." Modern drivers bring with them a rich variety of distractions. Distracted driving trumps entitled biking in every crash.


9 people like this
Posted by Lori Hobson
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 20, 2017 at 4:52 pm

Those plates are so poorly installed that they are likely to damage a tire or wheel. I always assumed it was part of Palo Alto's traffic calming to have such lousy repair work going on across downtown. I will slow to a crawl to get over them rather than upset folks though. Everyone has their own perspective over what is important. One great win-win to solve it would be, of course, to actually install the plates so they can be driven over without problems.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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